The excitement is building in my house full of soccer fans. Why? Because the 2014 World Cup begins in just a few days.
With the World Cup being played just a few time zones away in Brazil, it’s easier than ever to try to catch all of the world-class soccer action live – without having to wake up at the crack of dawn.
The soccer fans in my house can’t wait to see top players from their favorite international teams play for their home country squads. And, of course, they’re excited to cheer on the remarkable men selected to represent the U.S. in the elite soccer tournament.
Personally, I’m excited to watch the games unfold on a global stage because it offers my sons another opportunity to learn about countries from around the world.
More than 32 teams in eight groups are set to begin the tournament on June 12, 2014. For more than four weeks, teams will fight their hardest to make it into the World Cup finals on July 13, 2014. Throughout that time, my family will learn about familiar countries like England, France, and Japan, which we recently visited together as a family. We’ll also learn about many of the countries we haven’t visited yet like Argentina, Ecuador, Ghana, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Korea Republic, and Spain. And, through it all, we’ll get a better look at the host country of Brazil.
During the World Cup, people from the home countries of the lucky 32 teams, separated by land, sea and air, will come together in the joy of soccer (or football, futbol, futebol, calico) – depending on your home country or native tongue). No matter which team they cheer on, they’re all fans of the game and the prestigious tournament that only comes around once every four years.
While it’s easy for us to catch the 2014 World Cup games at home, there’s nothing like gathering together with other fans to cheer on the two teams out on the “pitch.” That’s why my family is busy planning ahead for where to watch the first set of games the U.S. Men’s National Team is scheduled to play in the first round of the World Cup.
With kids in tow, it’s important for us to find places that offer places to sit, kid-appropriate beverages, and are lively, but not too lively. Lucky for us, Chicago is gearing up for the international tournament in a big way and there are no shortage of places to watch the games live with other cheering fans.
UPDATE: Given the crowds that have come out to watch the World Cup, some venues have been too crowded for kids to comfortably watch the matches. I will try to update this post as new information and comments from World Cup fans becomes available. Now that the matches have begun, it is a good idea to call ahead to find out how crowds have been so far and then determine if the venue is still a good fit for your family.
Here are some of the best family-friendly places to watch World Cup first-round matches in Chicago:
1. Viewing Parties in Grant Park: When Chicagoans come together to celebrate sports teams, we do it in a big way in Grant Park. That’s why I was thrilled to learn of U.S. Soccer’s plans to host three World Cup viewing parties there. Yes, three U.S. Men’s National Team games will be broadcast live on a 19-by-33-foot high-definition screen outdoors in the heart of Chicago.
The viewing parties are free and open to the general public. Each one will include a U.S. Soccer Fan Fest area, which will offer a variety of activities over the course of the three parties. While you’re there, you can shop for U.S. Soccer merchandise and purchase food and beverages.
The current event schedule and exact locations within Grant Park follows below.
U.S. vs. Ghana: Monday, June 16 at 5 pm CT
Avery Field (near intersection of Columbus Dr. and Roosevelt Rd.)
U.S. vs. Portugal: Sunday, June 22 at 5 pm CT
Lower Hutchinson Field (near Columbus Dr., between Roosevelt Rd. and Balbo Dr.)
Avery Field (near intersection of Columbus Dr. and Roosevelt Rd.)
Update: The U.S. Soccer Federation changed the location of this viewing party to Lower Hutchinson Field. This change was made due to the huge number of fans who attended the U.S. -Ghana World Cup game on Monday, June 16. This larger area is where the city held the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship rally last year.
U.S. vs. Germany: Thursday, June 26 at 11 am CT
Petrillo Music Shell at Butler Field (near intersection of Columbus Dr. and Jackson St.)
Update: As of Monday, June 23, the plan remains to hold the viewing party for the US vs. Germany game at the Petrillo Music Shells. According to the Chicago Tribune, event organizers expect the venue to accommodate the large crowds that are expected to come out to cheer on the US Men's National Team.
U.S. vs. Belgium: Tuesday, July 1 at 3 pm CT
According to the Chicago Tribune, fans can enter the stadium at 1:30 p.m. It's free to attend the event, but normal parking fees at Soldier Field still apply. With Solider Field seating 61,500 people, there is plenty of room for Chicagoans to come out and cheer on the U.S. Men's National Team.
2. Chicago Sports Complex Events: Where better to watch a soccer match than at a sports complex? The Chicago Sports Complex, located at 2600 W. 35th St., is hosting World Cup viewing events throughout the entire competition - Thursday, June 12 through Sunday, July 13.
During the events, you can watch the matches on the big screen while you enjoy food and beverages. There also are a variety of activities planned for each event, including soccer clinics and tournaments, family fun zone, celebrity appearances, concerts, and more - all perfect for the entire family. A full schedule of events is available online.
Tickets for the daily events are $12 for adults and $5 for kids, and can be purchased online from the Chicago Sports Complex.
The Chicago Sports Complex also has a complete schedule available for download on its website. It's now taken over a very prominent place on my fridge!
3. Local Restaurants: The Chicago Fire is hosting World Cup viewing parties at the Chop Shop’s event space, 1st Ward, (2033 W. North Ave.) in Wicker Park. The 6,000-square-foot space will seat be able to fit about 200 fans in stadium-style seating, helping make it seem like you're there in Brazil as you watch the US Men's National Team play one of their matches up on a 30-foot projector screen. In honor of the games and its host, Chop Shop will sell a Chicago Fire sausage, with proceeds benefiting the Chicago Fire Foundation, the soccer team’s official charity, which works to enhance the lives of disadvantaged youth throughout Chicagoland. There also will be special appearances by some of the Chicago Fire players.
Eataly (43 E. Ohio St.), the Italian gourmet food marketplace in Chicago’s River North, will show the World Cup games at Birreria Restaurant. Birreria is a bar-like spot tucked away in the northwest corner of Eataly’s second floor. It has limited seating at the bar and a number of high-top tables. But, to me, the beauty of going to Eataly, is wandering the marketplace, stopping to grab a drink, some food or dessert. With the World Cup games on, you can do all that – and stop in Birreria to check the latest score.
Fans of the French Men's National Team can head to Troquet (111 W. Huron St.) to watch "Les Bleus" take on Honduras (June 15 at 2 pm), Switzerland (June 20 at 2 pm), and Ecuador (June 25 at 3 pm). Each of the games will be shown on TV and broadcast via French radio. For the games, Troquet is offering saucisse and Kronenbourg 1664 for $9. Fans who wear a jersey from their favorite country (France or others) receive 15% off.
4. Local Bars: My family’s favorite places to watch international soccer games is The Globe Pub (1934 W. Irving Park Rd.) in Chicago’s Northcenter neighborhood. The bar fits our family-friendly requirements: there’s amble seating, tons of TVs for our sons to see (no matter which way they’re facing), kid-appropriate beverages, and fun food options, too.
UPDATE: The Globe Pub normally allows children in with an adult/guardian before 7 pm, but has asked for people to only come if they are 21 and over given the large crowds they expect to watch the World Cup at their establishment.
5. Local Cultural Centers: If you want to cheer on the German National Team, then you should plan to head to DANK Haus (4740 N. Western Ave.), the German American Cultural Center in Lincoln Square. I’m sure it will be an especially lively spot to watch the German and U.S. Men’s National Teams square off in their match on Thursday, June 11. Admission is free to the DANK Haus. While there, you can purchase authentic German food and beer.
My family went to the DANK Haus to watch the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Finals. The room where they show the games is up on the second-floor of the building. It has a bar and several long tables, making it feel like you’re in a German beer hall.
UPDATE: Per the DANK Haus Facebook page, you should plan to arrive early to view the World Cup final. There is plenty of space to watch the game, but only 200 chairs. They also confirmed that attendance is open to all ages.
Do you plan to tune into the 2014 World Cup? Where do you plan to watch the matches? Which team will you be cheering on to win it all? Please share your feedback and thoughts in the comments below.
Can't watch the games with your family? You can still share the joy of it with them with the World Soccer Cup 2014 Activity Pack for Kids (pre-k thru 4th grade). You can find out more on the Multicultural Kid Blogs website.
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